Executive Interview

Interviewing is a horrible business practice

425 282 David DeWolf

A while ago I posted “You may not be the ‘A’ player you think you are,” describing what makes up a top performer. Charlie Thomas, CEO of Razorsight and author of “Entrepreneur: A CEO’s Lessons in American Capitalism,” commented about the importance of hiring – specifically of hiring people that are better than yourself. I couldn’t agree more – ‘A’ players make themselves better by surrounding themselves with people who are better, smarter, and more experienced than themselves. So what is the secret to identifying and hiring this type of teammate? For me, it’s not the typical recruiting process.

From my experience, relying on a series of interviews to find an All-Star for a key role is a recipe for disaster. It is nearly impossible to judge character, competence, and passion during a relatively short discussion. Finding someone who is more qualified for a position than you are requires more than a recruiting process, it requires a revolutionary mindset and approach. Here’s where I’d recommend you start:

  • Humble confidence. Getting your head straight is half the battle. The more senior your role, the more likely it is that you will need to hire someone more qualified than yourself for the role you’re trying to fill (leaders/managers tend to be generalists). Our head of sales is a much better salesman than myself. Our head of finance has more financial expertise than I could ever dream of. To hire the right people for these positions, I needed the humility to hire someone that could run circles around me, but the confidence to gauge everything from their competence to culture fit prior to hiring and the courage to lead a team of very strong performers thereafter.
  • Leverage your scaffolding. Successful companies and high performers tend to surround themselves with experts that help them jump to the next level (the concept is discussed in detail in The Breakthrough Company). Now’s the time to leverage those resources. Rely upon external resources to recommend the best and brightest for a position. The best hires are typically resources from within your network. Leverage the first and second-hand experience of people you trust to recommend known entities.
  • Get to know the person (in different ways). A simple interview stinks for making hiring decisions. How can you judge character, competence, passion, and so much more in a conversation? Be creative and find different ways to get to know your candidate and see them in action. Meet candidates for lunch and watch how they interact with the waiter and any acquaintances you happen to run into. Have the candidate roll up his/her sleeves and work with your team on a strategic initiative. Give your candidates critical feedback and see how they respond. Find ways to see your candidates in multiple environments, working with people and interacting as they would once they are on the job. Remember, you’re not looking for someone that can have an engaging 45-minute conversation with you. You are looking for someone that your entire team will respect and be thrilled to work with.
  • Don’t compromise. Go back and reread “You may not be the ‘A’ player you think you are.”  Refuse to compromise on these traits. Don’t make the mistake of settling for someone just because they are the best you’ve found so far and you have to fill the slot. Hiring the right person is much more important than hiring someone quickly.
Hiring the right people is key. What other creative ideas have you used to find the right people? How do you identify All-Star caliber people and ‘A’ players?